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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                       221
Fedya, a young man with a tanned face and round
head, with a large scar running across his high forehead,
leaned out of the window and shouted that the Moon
Committee could rest assured that he would do his duty.
There was an outburst of laughter from the crowd,
and amidst this laughter the buses started off, moving
slowly towards the gates.
''Good hunting! Safe journey!" were the greetings that
came from the crowd.
"Fedya! Fedya! Send us your P.O. number as soon as
you can! Zinochka will send your heart back by regis-
tered post!. .."
The buses vanished behind the bend. The dust, turned
into gold by the setting sun, settled. Hie convalescents
in gowns or striped pyjamas dispersed and strolled round
the park. Meresyev entered the vestibule where airmen's
caps with blue bands were hanging on cloak-room hooks,
and skittles, balls, croquet mallets and tennis-rackets
were lying on the floor in the corners. The lame Arme-
nian led him to the reception-room. A closer inspection
showed that he had a serious, clever face and fine, large,
mournful eyes. On the way, he jestingly introduced him-
self as the Chairman of the Moon Committee and as-
serted that moon baths were the best means of healing
every kind of wound, that he insisted on strict order and
discipline in the taking of moon bath treatments and that
he personally made the arrangements for strolls in the
moonlight. He seemed to joke automatically, while his
eyes retained their grave expression and peered keenly
and inquisitively into the face of his listener.
In the reception-room, Meresyev was received by a
girl in a white smock and with hair so red that her head
seemed to be in flames.
"Meresyev?" the girl inquired sternly, putting aside the
book she was reading. "Meresyev, Alexei Petrovich?" She
cast a critical glance at the airman and said: "Don't try
to play any tricks on me! I've got you down here as
'Meresyev, senior lieutenant from the Nth hospital,
amputated feet!'... but you-----"
Only then did Alexei see her round face, white, as
all red-haired girls have, and almost hidden by a mass
of fiery hair. A bright flush diffused her tender skin. She